Startup Pheed is looking to give celebrities and any other user a new way to share and monetize their content, via a web-based platform and iPhone app. The platform launched in limited beta in August, officially launched two weeks ago, and is releasing its iPhone app shortly, pending approval by Apple. So far over 200 notable entertainers have signed up, including Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, and the site has received almost one million visits since launch.
On Pheed’s social network users create their own channel, or ‘pheed,’ where they can share text, photos, and video and audio files, and either share content for free, or set a monthly subscription fee to access the channel. They can also hold live broadcasts, and charge for one-time access, even if they have a free channel. Monthly subscriptions and one-time event pricing range from $1.99 to $34,99, with 50 percent going to the content creator, and 50 percent going to Pheed.
The company was founded by serial entrepreneur OD Kobo, who spent most of the last 10 years in China, though the company is now based in Los Angeles. He said in an interview that the goal of Pheed is to give people a better way to not only share a mixture of audio, video, photos, and text updates, but give people a way to follow their friends across those different mediums, rather than using Soundcloud for audio, Viddy for video, and Instagram for photos. “We decided that some things today have become very complex…and Instagram is so simple and smooth and wonderful,” he said. “We wanted to emulate how you take an Instagram [photo], the simplicity, but add additional features.”
Kobo said that 77 percent of the company’s traffic since launch has been from mobile devices, so he thinks the iPhone app will really be the core of the experience. It will offer similar functionality to the web platform, but with the ability to filter updates by sound, text, image, etc. “Everything is mobile today, and you can’t be a platform without having a strong mobile advantage,” Kobo said.”
A recent Forbes article asked if Pheed is the new Twitter, calling it “Twitter with a business plan.” Kobo objects to the idea that they’re a paid Twitter, saying that the business model is not what sets them apart. “We’re not by any means a premium website,” he said. “We just think it’s about time for platforms to offer features of monetization.” He said users can keep their content free if they want, and envisions most people offering free content with one-time paid events like concerts or chats. Even celebrities like Miley Cyrus are offering free content, and she’s posted several photos and videos in the past week, many of which have well over 1,000 “pheedbacks,” or comments from Pheed users.
Following the iPhone app launch, the company will focus on building an Android app, and on growing its user base of both celebrities and the average social network users. Like with any social network launch, the first question users will likely ask is ‘do I really need another place to share updates and follow friends?’ And while the platform might be different because of its ability to charge for and copyright a user’s content, not to mention the concentration of celebrities, what will really set it apart is being able to create a profitable and consistently engaged user base, rather than just being the social media flavor of the week.